With the Golden State Warriors hitting some bumps this season in pursuit of an NBA title three-peat, it has become popular to try to pick holes and question their chemistry.
But Wednesday night’s 106-104 win in Houston, without Kevin Durant (ankle), was the latest reminder of what they can do when the big games arrive. After losing the first three clashes with the Rockets this season, Steph Curry had called it a statement game for his team - and they delivered.
Here are a few other takeaways from Wednesday’s showdown:
DeMarcus Cousins looked sharper
Cousins has looked a tricky fit at times since returning from his Achilles injury, but this was his best game as a Warrior. He finished with 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting and was a +7 on the night, serving up a reminder of the extra dimension and physicality he gives Golden State.
If there were concerns over whether he could play significant minutes in a series against the Rockets, Wednesday night confirmed that he can be a difference-maker.
Houston’s three-point shooting has to be better
Ice cold shooting from behind the arc cost the Rockets in Game 7 of last year’s Western Conference Finals. Wednesday night was a far cry from that but 11-of-41 on three-pointers is not going to cut it against the Warriors.
James Harden and P.J. Tucker combined to make just three of their 19 triples, and Houston were lucky that Curry only connected on three of his nine tries.
The Rockets’ bench remains shaky against elite opponents
The Harden-Chris Paul-Clint Capela trio continues to match up well with the Warriors, but Mike D’Antoni will have tough decisions to make if these teams meet in the playoffs, starting with how deep he goes into his bench. D’Antoni has famously preferred shorter rotations - and he will have to take a long look at how many minutes Gerald Green (-16) and Iman Shumpart (-13) can play in this time of matchup after their struggles on Wednesday.
In contrast, Golden State’s reserves held their own, despite Andre Iguodala starting in place of Durant. Quinn Cook and Alfonso McKinnie both gave Steve Kerr solid minutes.
The Rockets are going to have to ask for even more from Harden
Harden’s three-point shooting was off in midweek but he still provided 29 points and ten assists in 37 minutes. The minutes count is going to have to rise in a series with Golden State to something closer to 40 or 41. Anything short of a vintage Harden series will likely leave Houston with insurmountable odds.